Chinese HIV/AIDS Advocate Gao Says International Pressure Helped Persuade Officials To Allow Her To Travel to U.S. To Accept Award
Chinese HIV/AIDS advocate and retired physician Gao Yaojie on Thursday said she believes international pressure helped persuade Chinese authorities to allow her to travel to the U.S. to accept an award from Vital Voices Global Partnership, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports. "I think it was pressure from the world that helped change their minds," she said, adding, "It was a very nasty situation before that" (AP/International Herald Tribune, 2/22). According to Gao's friend and Beijing-based AIDS advocate Hu Jia, Chinese authorities from the eastern province Henan told Gao not to attend the Vital Voices awards ceremony. When Gao refused, she was put under house arrest to prevent her from traveling to Beijing to apply for a U.S. visa, Hu said. However, Gao earlier this week said that she was told by Communist Party Deputy Secretary for Henan Chen Quanguo that she would not be prevented from traveling to the U.S. to accept the award. Gao also said that Chen offered no apology and did not acknowledge the police guards outside her home. Gao in the 1990s alerted people in Henan of HIV cases that occurred through tainted blood transfusions. Gao also distributed material warning people of HIV and the risks of donating blood. In addition, Gao has distributed medicine to HIV-positive people, provided care for AIDS orphans and hosted people living with HIV/AIDS in her home. She also has written a book about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in China. Chinese authorities in 2001 and 2003 prevented Gao from traveling abroad to accept awards for her work (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/20). Gao will visit Washington, D.C., next month to receive her award, the AP/Herald Tribune reports. "I think it's a sign of the progress our society has made," Gao said of the relaxed restrictions, adding, "Ten years ago this could not have happened." Gao said that she plans to use her trip to spread the message about tainted blood issues in China (AP/International Herald Tribune, 2/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.